No more cold room situations for students as the Nigerian Senate has finally passed a bill that deals with the sexual harassment of students in universities and other tertiary institutions.
The bill was passed after third reading during plenary on Tuesday, July 7, 2020, shortly after the chairperson of the Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights, and Legal Matters, Senator Opeyemi Bamidele, presented a report to the chamber.
The bill was sponsored by Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege, and co-sponsored by 106 senators after a string of high-profile cases of sexual harassment of students by their lecturers.
The bill prevents lecturers from having or demanding sexual intercourse from students or prospective students; making sexual advances, or directing another person to commit any act of sexual harassment.
The bill also prohibits lecturers from whistling, winking, stalking, making sexual jokes, or making sexually complimentary or uncomplimentary remarks about a student’s physique.
They are also prevented from grabbing, hugging, kissing, rubbing, stroking, touching, or pinching the breasts, hair, lips, hips, buttocks, or any other sensual part of a student’s body.
The bill also stipulates that a student cannot grant consent to a sexual relationship with a lecturer.
Upon conviction, offenders can be sentenced to a maximum of 14 years in prison, fined the sum of N5 million, or both.
The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) opposed the bill, claiming that it targets a particular community.
However, Senator Bamidele said the objectives of the bill was to prohibit the offense of sexual harassment of students and criminalize the act of neglect or failure of administrative heads to address complaints from students.
“We observed that sexual harassment in our tertiary institutions is one of the major factors responsible for the decline in academic excellence in the country today, as hard work, merits and transparency have been compromised by this ugly trend,” he said.
The bill will be forwarded to the House of Representatives for concurrence, and then forwarded to President Muhammadu Buhari to either reject or sign into law.
The bill is titled “A Bill for an Act to prevent, prohibit and redress sexual harassment of students in tertiary educational institutions and for matters concerned therewith 2019”.
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